We met Nathaniel late last Friday night as he became the first born son to two of our closest friends. Everyone had been anxious and excited about his arrival for a while now. He must have been listening in and figured that out though because he decided to make his debut almost 2 months early. However, he was kind enough to let us take maternity pictures of his parents the weekend before.
Friday night and into Saturday morning, Lauren and I had the honor and privilege to take pictures of Nathaniel, his parents and a lot of their family and friends. It was a pretty typical scene; a tired but glowing mom, a proud and nervous dad, beaming grandparents, aunt, uncle and even great grandparents. At one point there were about 30 people in that small delivery room peering over each others shoulders to get a glimpse of the little celebrity. You can see that his dad was pretty excited to share the story about how Nathaniel came into the world (it is by far the most remarkable birth story I have ever heard).
The meaning of the name Nathaniel is "Gift of God; God has given". I haven't asked his parents if that was intentional, but it is definitely appropriate given the circumstances. It is also no coincidence that his birthday (8-28-2015) corresponds with Romans 8:28.
I first learned that his parents were expecting one early Friday morning in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel and remember thinking how blessed that baby would be considering the family he/she was being born in to. Nathaniel's parents are amazing, there is no question about that. First read the story of Abraham and Isaac and then I will tell you why.
Genesis 22: 2-12
" 2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you." 3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” 6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. 9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
A few weeks after that morning at Cracker Barrel, we found out that a boy was on the way. However, the ultrasound revealed some unexpected findings, which led to more testing and finally Nathaniel's parents got news that he had a condition called Trisomy 13. Unfortunately this meant that Nathaniel would not get to go home with his parents and that his time with them on earth would be limited.
Their response however is a modern day example of faith like Abraham. They were asked to surrender to the Lord a precious gift that had just been given to them. We never heard them ask "why God us" or "why our son?" Instead they spoke of how Nathaniel's life will be a cornerstone of their testimony and how it will draw them closer to God. They became living examples of how God's grace and mercy can turn anguish into hope and joy.
Their strength and trust in God was evident throughout the pregnancy and birth. Although we live in a world where perfectly normal babies are killed for merely not being wanted, Nathaniel's mom carried him proudly regardless of the eventual outcome. God's plan for them never included an "easy way out". I am sure any woman who has ever been pregnant can attest to her bravery and I am positive she would attribute that courage to God. One might have expected a solemn birth experience, but Nathaniel's birthday was filled with more joy and love than I have ever seen.
Nathaniel's parents never once withheld their son from God. They knew that their "Gift from God" was exactly that and that God's plan for Nathaniel was far greater than their own. They have displayed a faith like Abraham in a way most people are never asked to do. Obviously their task is not easy and I would encourage you to pray for them and their family as they wait to see their son again.